31. 1. 2016HOODED MENACE – We´re not trying to be cool and distant, it´s just that some of us are a bit introvert.
Interview with Lasse Pyykkö.
Hello Lasse, I'd like to thank you very much for your time! How are you in the new year and how would you sum up the last one from the Hooded Menace point of view?
Hi, no problem! Thanks for having me! Just started writing material for the next album. Hopefully this time around, people don´t have to wait three years for the new Hooded Menace full length.
Last year was very special for us, because we did our first full tour ever, and released a new album that was our first full length recorded with a full line up.
When the name of your band pops up in the Czech Republic, everybody associates it with Doomentia Records, under which you were releasing your records for many years. How did you start working together? And what was it like from your point of view?
After the release of our first, and sole, demo "The Eyeless Horde" in 2007, I started looking for a small vinyl label that would be interested in releasing the demo on 7". I was very satisfied with the demo and thought it would make a nice 7" release, and that would, of course, be good promotion for the upcoming debut album. I came across Doomentia Records on the internet, probably on MySpace, and decided to contact them. It was just a gut feeling, but it turned out to be a really good move. They made an awesome job on "The Eyeless Horde" 7" EP, and we have kept working together since then. In fact, we are currently working on a Hooded Menace/Algoma (sludge/doom from Canada) split EP for the label.
How did the change of label affected you? Relapse Records is a bigger one after all. Did it help? Did you notice an increase in attention for your band? Can you describe it somehow?
Relapse certainly helped us to reach out to a bit wider audience. We got bigger recording budget, more press coverage, more records were sold, and all that. When it comes to the music, obviously the label didn´t change us. They never told us what to do with our music or whatsoever, and I wouldn´t say that getting signed to a bigger metal label affected the way we approached the songwriting. They signed Hooded Menace, and that´s what they got.
I have to admit, the new record „Darkness Drips Forth“ was not my cup of tea at first, but after your Prague show, I somehow opened my ears and now I ask myself, how could I've been so deaf :-) Do you think (and feel) that you changed something on the last record? The way I feel about it, it's perhaps the slowest, yet the most melodic one. How do you feel about it?
Oh yeah, slower and more melodic it is. We definitely stretched the extremities on this one. It´s heavier and sometimes painfully slow, but there´s a certain kind of grace to it with all those melodies coming left and right. Looking back, it seems like we were moving in that direction already on "Labyrinth of Carrion Breeze" EP, and on the split EP with Loss, even if we didn´t really realize it. It was just a very natural progression. Also, after "Effigies of Evil" I´ve been listening more and more to slower type of doom, you know, the more funeral kind of stuff like Asunder, Mournful Congregation and Thergothon, and that might have inspired me, on conscious or subconscious level, to write more grandiose, melodic and slower music.
And on the topic of artwork, the cover for the new album is fantastic. Could you tell me a little bit about its creation and concept please?
Thanks! It´s Justin Bartlett´s creation. I´m a big fan of his artwork, and since he doesn´t do band stuff much at all anymore, we considered us very lucky to have him on the board. Once again, we wanted to have a Blind Dead (Spanish cult horror movie series from the 70´s) related art, and we were dying to see Justin´s take on the subject. It turned out cool, but to be brutally honest with you, not exactly as we wished. Perhaps our expectations were too great, and we were running out of time… but anyways, the cover art has Justin´s usual deranged feel to it, and it does the job, and I´m still a Bartlett fan.
Two years ago, you released compilation „Gloom Immemorial“. Whose idea was that - Lucas' (Doomentia Records) or yours? I personally think this record came out great and I was happy to buy it. Getting hands on your older recordings is impossible, though. And another thing is, not all of your fans do own a record player – gramophone.
It was an idea I came up with a long time ago. I thought it would be cool to compile the tracks on one CD, so that the vinyl junkies, that were fast enough to grab a copy of the original releases, are not the only ones that can enjoy these, a bit more rare, Hooded Menace songs. It´s a different format, so I don´t feel like we´re pissing on the fans that have collected the vinyls. A lot of people have been asking from us for this kind of a release, so there was a demand for it, and the idea was already cemented in our heads. So we just waited for the right moment, and when we had enough material, we went for it. You know, with us, there always seem to be some smaller releases on the horizon, but after the Loss split we knew that we´re going to focus totally on our full album for Relapse, and won´t be releasing anything else anytime soon, so it was excellent timing to put out the compilation.
You've recorded many split albums. The most famous band you co-worked with was Asphyx. On the other hand you don't hesitate co-working with less known bands. What fascinates you about the split albums? And is it, that at first you were the initiative ones but now you are the ones getting offers from other bands?
It´s just fun to share a wax with a band you dig and have respect for. It feels right, you know. That being said, I think we'll try to do less splits, smaller releases etc. in the future, because it´d make sense to focus just on full albums. To be honest, songwriting isn´t getting any easier after four full lengths plus bunch of other stuff, and we´d like to stick around for some time. We´re our most merciless critics, and we are not going to put out half-hearted stuff of any format just for the sake of having one more release in the CV, and giving an impression of a damn "prolific" band. It´s never been quantity over quality with us. But like I mentioned earlier, nonsense or not, we have a new split release under work as we speak so… old habits die hard (laughs).
We´ve got split offers from many bands since "Fulfill the Curse", but for most of our splits, we have been the initiative ones actually, and sometimes the label have came up with an idea. That´s how Asphyx split came together. I suppose we would not have been even capable of thinking of such thing (laughs).
What album had the biggest impact on increasing the attention to your band, in your opinion?
I guess "Never Cross the Dead" (Profound Lore Records) has to be that album. "Fulfill the Curse" was a really good debut that people really seemed to like, and some were slightly surprised we actually improved from it. In the beginning, I think we were taken as just some kind of a side project band without long lifespan, and to some extent, that´s how it appeared to me too. I mean, the band started off as a project with no plans beyond a demo/7" EP, and an album. That seemed like a lot at the time. But I was really enjoying writing all this music, it seemed to come out just like that. I always took Hooded Menace´s music seriously, but after the debut album, I took it very seriously, because I realized this is what I really wanna do. I was passionate about it. Candlemass and Autopsy have been some of my favourite bands since the late 80´s, so it felt very natural to sorta combine those influences. It appears to me that after "Never Cross the Dead", we started to be taken more seriously, more like a real band with a future. Also label-wise, it was a big leap from our first label to Profound Lore, which enabled a decent promotion and distribution, and a recording budget, something we never had before. That´s when things got more professional, and people started to pay attention.
You've clearly defined your music style. I can easily identify you in the „flood“ of many bands and you're constantly capable of coming with quality material. Do you think, you'll always create the same music under the name Hooded Menace? Aren't you interested in trying some different music style or different ways of the current ones?
I guess it´s always going to be death/doom, but of course we hope to refine it a little bit along the way. If you listen to "Fulfill the Curse" and "Darkness Drips Forth" back to back, they aren´t exactly the same, yet they aren´t insanely different either, they still sound like Hooded Menace, and that´s the kind of evolution of sound we wish to be able to keep going on. No drastic changes, but a little bit of refining, you know. Perhaps we can get back to this after ten years. Who knows what happens. Right now, it´s just very hard for me to see us change as much as, say, Katatonia, because I´m still in some kind of "death/doom ecstasy" (laughs), and just extremely inspired and passionate to
play this kind of music. It´s a good place to be. If I crave to play something different, I can try to start a side project to fulfill those needs. I have Ruinebell (metal/punk), for instance. There´s plenty of different styles of music I´d like to play, and I don´t mean just different sub-genres of metal. But for now, Hooded Menace is satisfying and busy enough.
What's unique about you, that in the studio you record all the vocals, but live it's your bass player Markus Makkonen, who handles the vocal duties. Could you tell me something about this, what's behind it?
As much as I´d love to have Markus do the studio vocals as well, it´s just that my voice seems to fit better to our music, and it has that distinctive tone to it that makes Hooded Menace sound like… well, Hooded Menace. I don't really like growling in a studio, but I can deal with it, and sometimes I even enjoy it a little bit, but live shows are out of the question. Markus is doing that shit live, and he does it well. He´s been playing bass and singing in his main band Sadistik Forest for years, so it´s no problem for him. He´s much more of a front man type of guy anyway, so this layout works out just fine for us.
You played in the Czech Republic for the first time during the Obscene Extreme festival in 2013, which you opened together with bands Evoken and Esoteric. Even though I doubt, you were able to absorb the famous atmosphere, what memories of that day you have? And do you know, that your three bands were musically unique? It's a grindcore festival after all.
Yeah, it´s a niche festival for grindcore maniacs, but one evening dedicated to doom went down really well. If you dig Napalm Death and Repulsion, you might just as well love Saint Vitus and Winter. I do! It´s all heavy and extreme music. We really enjoyed our stay in Trutnov. I wish we could do it again sometime, and play better.
On the other hand, your most recent show was the Prague one in December. You toured Europe for the first time in your history last year. How come it took so long for this to happen? And how many people came to see you? Also how did you put up with the long travelling distances, playing every day etc.?
Yeah, this EU tour with Mourning Beloveth and Shores of Null was our first full tour. Before that, we´ve done only mini tours and, of course, one-offs. A full tour could have happened a couple of years before, but this was the offer that seemed worth going for with timing that fit to everyone´s calendars. Some five years ago I´d say no, because I wasn´t as comfortable with live shows as I´m now. Initially the band wasn´t even meant to play live! The live thing has been happening to us rather slowly. The current line up works out the best, so I´m glad the tour happened now.
Attendance varied from 50 to 300, or something like that, I don't´know. Of course, there were loads of people at the Eindhoven Metal Meeting show, because it´s a considerable festival. Maybe three shows out of ten weren´t so good, but the rest were great, some of our best, I think. Playing everyday wasn´t an issue in itself, but the lack of sleep can get to you after a while. We´re not youngsters anymore. Also, some of us aren´t the most social type of guys, so being around people all the time isn´t exactly the place to be (laughs), but it was alright. The other bands were easy to tour with. It was great to visit new places, see the Swiss Alps so close (epic!), meet friends, and stuff like that. Sure, sitting in a van gets a little boring. I didn´t bring Cobra and Sleepaway Camp DVD´s in vain! As far as van tours go, I believe ten days is pretty much the max for us.
Do you prefer playing in clubs or at festivals?
This might not be the most "rock´n´roll" answer, but I have to say festivals - the bigger the better. The further the audience is from the stage, the better. Clubs can be great, but since we aren´t exactly crowd pleasers, in a way that we´d go totally nuts on stage, and "put on a show", which, by the way, would look pretty ridiculous, and feel like faking, since we play rather slow and depressing stuff, I think festivals fit us better. You´re more distanced from the audience on a larger stage, it´s less intimate, which is good, I like that. Bigger space actually helps me "to get lost" in the music. As stupid as it may sounds, I like the idea that we´re up there like some hooded freaks in distance and out of reach, surrounded by a fog-like smoke… (laughs). I suppose it says something about us as people. We´re not trying to be "cool and distant", it´s just that some of us are a bit introvert.
You played in the USA at Maryland Deathfest. How was it and is it possible to compare american and european fans? Apart from this festival, did you do a standard tour there? Were you able to get to know the US as a tourist?
It was our second time at MDF and it was great. I can´t tell if there´s much difference between North American and European audience. It´s all good.
We were supposed to kick off the North American trek in New York at Saint Vitus Bar, but due to a delayed flight and lost gear, we had to cancel it. So we hang out in NYC a day or two, got our gear back, and headed to Philadelphia to play at Kung Fu Necktie, then we did MDF in Baltimore, and after that we drove up to Montreal, Canada to play at Katacombes.
Yes, we had some time to be tourists in New York and Baltimore. Also we asked the promoter of the Philly show to stop by at the Rocky Statue for some photos (laughs). It´s becoming a tradition, we did the same on our first US trip.
I noticed you'll be doing a show at California Deathfest in October. So you're heading for America again. What festival is it and are you going to do some more shows there?
California Deathfest is organised by the same people as Maryland Deathfest. It´s just smaller. This is going to be our first time on the US West Coast, so we´re very much looking forward to it. Sorry, I can´t comment the possible additional shows at this stage.
When the word „Finland“ comes up I immediately recall music. The second is hockey and then my favourite sauna. Are hockey and sauna something you're interested in as well?
I like the very Finnish combination of a summerhouse, sauna, and having a swim in a lake, but apart from that, I don´t go to sauna at all.
I used to play ice hockey as a kid, but I don´t follow it much anymore. I tend to watch The World Championships, at least the bigger matches, but that´s all. I don´t jump into the fountains and sing those stupid ice hockey songs when we win. Hockey is not a huge deal to me.
You're going to celebrate ten years of Hooded Menace next year, but from the look on your discography, the number of records is really impressive. How come you're able to constantly create? Is there something special that keeps you going forward, some source of energy and inspiration?
I don´t know. I mean, it´s not like I´m writing music all the time. I might think about it all the time, but I write songs only now and then, but when I go for it, I go on for weeks or months. I do it periodically. For me it´s important to have breaks, even longer ones, because that´s when I accumulate almost a compulsive need to create again, and that is a great place to be when it´s time to write. I can get inspired by movies, weather, books, architecture, anything really… but mostly the inspiration comes from the good music I hear. Music breeds music.
Are you aware of the music scene around you? Which records did you find interesting last year? What type of music enthusiasist is Lasse?
I don't follow the metal scene too much, but sure I come across great new music here and there. From last year, I liked albums from Indesinence, Bell Witch, Horrendous, Acid King, Cruciamentum, Ilsa, and Tau Cross to mention a few. Also the classic acts, Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride, put out surprisingly good albums. I think "Feel the Misery" is My Dying Bride´s best albums, and Paradise Lost´s "Beneath Broken Earth" is my favourite song of 2015.
I guess I like mostly metal, and especially the slower end of it. That´s why I play it. But of course there´s more than just metal… I get my kicks from various styles of music from The Beatles to Bowie to Duran Duran to Stray Cats to Kraftwerk to Dead Boys to Rush to The Posies to Dead Moon to Cream to The Stooges to My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult to Dinosaur Jr. to Shitlickers, all the way to Fear of God, and what not. There´s too much to list.
Lasse, I'd like to thank you again for you time, wish you and the band great year 2016 with many great ideas and successful shows! It was a pleasure talking to you!
Thank you for the interview and all the best for 2016! Take care!